‘Mapping Across’: A Simple NLP Technique To Change Unwanted Responses

Compulsion to freedom NLP‘Mapping Across’ is an example of what computer geeks call a ‘brain hack’ – a simple tweak that you can do to make your mind run more effectively. This time we’re working with visual submodalities.

You can use this mapping across process to transition from one internal state to another. For example, you can move from an unresourceful state of confusion to a more resourceful state of acceptance or understanding.

The process also works really well if there’s some food item that you like ‘too much’ – something that you’ve just got to have, and that you eat too much of. For some people it’s a particular chocolate bar, or a particular flavour of crisps (chips if you’re from outside the UK), or a particular type of biscuit. The other condition for a good choice is that it has to be something that actually you would prefer to give up for good, so although you like it now, you wish you could just lose interest in it completely.

Notice I’m saying a particular type of chocolate, or a particular flavour of crisps – not chocolate or crisps in general, and certainly not a whole food group. Why? Ecology: and the principle that any intervention should increase choice rather than take it away. If someone goes off a particular flavour of crisps, other varieties are available, and the person still has the choice to eat these if they want. Generally, we want to make the smallest change we can to get the result; big, dramatic changes may also have unwanted effects in other areas of the person’s life. And of course the same principle applies in organisational or business change as well.

Also, when some people hear about a technique for changing how you feel about a particular thing, they ask me “Can I do it for cigarettes, or alcohol?” I’d say not: smoking, or excessive drinking, are usually complex behaviours that need something more high powered to get a permanent resolution. So choose something quite specific; a particular type of chocolate, or a specific flavour of muffin or danish pastry.

Finally, right before we go into the exercise, remember that it’s always easier to have someone else guide you through an NLP process. You may get a dramatic result with the exercise you’re about to do; and you’ll have an opportunity to see this demonstrated and practice with another person on the live training, where we’ll also find some other applications you can use mapping across for.

And, if no particular foodstuff springs to mind, you can try this out with a willing accomplice after you’ve read the exercise through a couple of times, and see what results you get for them. I do encourage you to try this on yourself first, because you will learn more about yourself, and probably get a great result, which is good for your own personal development.

Here are the instructions. Use the checklist below to elicit the submodalities of each representation.

  1. Identify the two states (or values/beliefs) that you want to contrast — one desired, one undesired.
  2. Elicit the submodalities of each separately. “As you think about that, what do you see?” encourages a picture – visual mode is preferable for quick changework.
  3. “Contrastive Analysis”. Identify the Drivers – the critical submodalities that make the difference between the two. (Usually it is good to go for the following as critical: location, distance, associated/dissociated, brightness, or focus.)
  4. Let go of the content of the desired state, creating a void. Change the submodalities of the present state to those of the desired state. Emphasise the drivers. You can leave the content of the present state as it is, although this may change by itself.
  5. Test the change using the internal kinaesthetic experience (e.g. “Does this feel like understanding now?” or “Do you want that food?”) and future pace.

(Partial) Visual Submodalities Checklist
Size of picture?
Black and white / Colour?
Bright or Dim?
Moving or Still?
3D or Flat?
Focused / Defocused?
Amount of Contrast
Framed or Panoramic?


How did you get on?

Let’s unpack the important features of this exercise. First, the overall structure. We wanted to move from an undesired state – in this case, a state of compulsion, which is generally not a good state to be in with regard to any food, to a state of indifference.

So we quickly elicited the visual submodalities of your representation of the food that you liked too much. Then we let go of that, and elicited the submodalities of another food that you found disgusting. Then we took your representation of the food you liked too much, and changed the submodalities of that representation – not the content – to the submodalities of the disgusting food, and locked that new version in place.

It’s a simple process, and there’s a number of features that you need to make it successful. We’ll examine these in the next article, Working With Submodalities: Key Success Factors.

Practical NLP Podcast CollectionNote: ‘Mapping Across’ is covered in the Practical NLP Podcast Episode 21: Mapping Across Submodalities. This episode is no longer available on Apple Podcasts, but you can buy it as part of the Practical NLP Podcast Collection Volume 3 which also has episode transcripts.

© 2014 – 2019, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

1 comment

  1. Manisha

    Nice and informative

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